Your Parents Lied To You: Driving Myths Debunked

Mom and Dad mean well. Really, they do. But as you’ve probably suspected for a while – dating back to the time when you went swimming right after you ate a cheeseburger and weren’t seized by horrible, horrible cramps that caused you to drown – some of the scary warnings that your parents have given you aren’t entirely based in reality. This includes some of the “advice” they’ve given you about driving. Here’s a few of the more popular myths perpetuated by parents everywhere.

“If you use the AC and it’s over 75 degrees outside, your car will overheat!”

If this were true, the roadways in Arizona would look like the freeways in The Walking Dead – strewn with the steaming hulks of overtaxed autos.

Putting the "A.C." in apocalypse.

Putting the “A.C.” in apocalypse.

To your parents’ credit, there IS some historical precedent for the idea that running the AC in hot weather is dangerous. The engines in older model cars – and by older, we mean “cars that were on the road in the 80’s” – may not be able to handle the extra load that a running AC can place on them. These days, most cars overheat because of problems with the radiator, oil system, or the engine’s thermostat. This is why keeping up with your car’s maintenance schedule is important – your mechanic will make sure that the car’s cooling systems are functioning correctly, and that your coolant and oil levels are correct. Speaking of oil…

“You MUST get your oil changed every 3,000 miles!”

Nope. Advances in automotive technology and the development of synthetic motor oil have rendered this number obsolete. According to auto resource website Edmunds.com, most carmakers these days call for oil changes every 7,000 to 10,000 miles. This is good news for you; not so good for the Quick-E-Lube guys.

“E means empty!”

Not really. When your gas gauge reaches “E” and the low fuel warning light comes on, you still have a bit of wiggle room. The fuel warning light tells you that you’ve now hit your reserve fuel – you do have some gas left in the tank, about 10 to 15% of your tank’s total capacity. For most cars, this translates to about 1 to 1.5 gallons of reserve fuel; enough to get you to the nearest gas station. If you’re curious about how much gas your car can hold in reserve, check out the crowd-sourced website Tank On Empty.

“The less gas you have in your tank, the lower your gas mileage – so always keep your car full!”

This is a strange one, and we suspect it was started by a secret cabal of oil company executives. There are many ways to make sure that you’re not spending any more money on gas than you need to, but keeping your tank topped off isn’t one of them.

“Keep your hands at 10 and 2!”

Once again, your parents aren’t wholly to blame for perpetuating this myth. They are probably just repeating what they were taught in Driving School – that the safest place for your hands on the wheel is at the 10:00 and 2:00 positions.

No wheel

Nowadays, the agreed-upon position is 9 and 3.

The myth-busting website Snopes.com does a deep dive into the research that’s been done on this, and lists a few compelling reasons. The biggest? The 10 and 2 position emerged at a time when power steering had not yet been invented – having one’s hands at a higher position on the wheel gave the driver the leverage needed to turn the beast.

Hopefully, your parents won’t get TOO upset when you correct their mistakes. If they do, just tell them that you know that they meant well and want you to be the best driver you can be. If that doesn’t work, don’t feel too bad – after all, these are the same people who gave you nightmares for weeks by telling you that if you swallow a watermelon seed, one will grow in your tummy.

October 19th through the 23rd is National Teen Driver Safety Week. This week, DriversEd.com and our sister site I Drive Safely will be sharing a lot of great information aimed at teen drivers and their parents – tips that will help everyone in your family stay safe on the roads. And for teens and their parents in California and Texas, we’re offering something extra – we’re giving away over 2,000 hours’ worth of online California and Texas driver training course! To enter to win one of the 35 iDriveSafely California Online Drivers Education Courses for novice drivers (30 hours each), California teens 14 and older can email CA_Sweepstakes@eDriving.com. To enter to win one of 15 DriversEd.com Parent-Taught Drivers Education Courses for novice drivers (86 hours each), Texas teens should email TX_Sweepstakes@eDriving.com.  Find full rules for the giveaway at www.edriving.com

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